Contrary to the national parliament polls, however, it was the DP that made the biggest percentage gain in the European election in Luxembourg. The Democratic Party claimed 18.7% of the vote compared to 14.9% in 2004, leapfrogging the Déi Gréng to become the third strongest party and almost catching the LSAP in second place (the socialists saw their share of the vote fall from 22.1% to 19.4%). The Greens also made minor gains, climbing from 15% in 2004 to 16.8% this time around. Despite retaining three seats, the CSV suffered a significant drop in its share of the vote, falling from 37.1% to 31.3%. The ADR also lost ground and failed to win enough votes to win its first European Parliament seat, even though its leading candidates had been making noises about being in with a real chance.
As in the national election, Déi Lénk was the biggest winner among the minor parties, doubling its 2004 score to claim 3.4% of the vote. The communist KPL received 1.5% and Aly Jaerling’s new party, the Biergerlëscht, won 1.4% in its first election.
Focus on candidates
What was significant about the European elections was that it was the first time the major parties had agreed to make separate lists from the national elections – in 2004 even the likes of Jean-Claude Juncker and Luc Frieden, who had no intention of going to the European Parliament, were candidates. This may have helped voters focus on the candidates rather than the party, which would explain why Charles Goerens of the DP scored an impressive 111,589 votes – the most of any single candidate – while many of his party colleagues suffered a humiliation in the national elections. Goerens was naturally pleased with the result which he said was “immensely comforting.” Goerens says the biggest challenge the parliament faces is to sort out the “institutional mess” in which the European Union currently finds itself.
He also believes the EU must take a series of political initiatives to help tackle the financial and economic crisis. Before the elections Goerens had called for greater cooperation between Luxembourg’s MEPs and deputies in the national parliament. “It is more interesting to influence a text than to lament the results after it is published,” he said. Now he wants to meet with his five MEP colleagues from the CSV, LSAP and Déi Gréng to discuss how they can work together on those dossiers that directly influence Luxembourg and also involve the chamber of deputies.
The CSV had famously wheeled in European Commissioner Viviane Reding as its leading candidate, and she placed second among the candidates. Whether Mme. Reding takes up her seat in Strasbourg depends on whether, as seems likely, she is nominated once again to serve as Luxembourg’s commissioner. If so, her seat in the European Parliament will be taken by Syprolux union president Georges Bach, who placed fourth among the CSV candidates. CSV veteran Astrid Lulling (who celebrated her 80th birthday on 11 June), retained the seat she has held in the European Parliament since 1989, while Frank Engel, the CSV’s parliamentary faction secretary, claimed his party’s third seat.
Claude Turmes, the Green party candidate who has served as an MEP since 1999, comfortably retained his seat by placing third ahead of fellow incumbent MEP Robert Goebbels of the LSAP. Goebbels was unhappy with the disinterest shown in the EP elections and said the loss in vote share suffered by the LSAP and CSV was down to their “minimal” campaigns. His own election posters, for instance, did not include any mention of the European Parliament. “The people cannot be made to feel excited about European political themes.”
Luxembourg, of course, is one of the few countries in Europe that has obligatory voting. Nevertheless, of the 240,673 voters registered for the EP elections, only 198,364 submitted valid ballot papers – some 22,250 voters didn’t bother turning up and a further 20,059 submitted blank or invalid ballot papers. Indeed, across the 27 member states, the 2009 European Parliament elections have suffered the lowest turnout since direct suffrage began in 1979. Just 43% bothered to vote, down from 45% in 2004 and way below the 62% participation in the 1979 elections.